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Inside Vladimir Putin’s “mafia state”

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These days he wears Armani

The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia. By Mark Galeotti. Yale University Press; 344 pages; $28 and £20.

MANY labels have been applied to Vladimir Putin’s Russia: kleptocracy, post-modern authoritarianism and, in Barack Obama’s ill-advised put-down, a “regional power”. One that stuck came from a Spanish prosecutor in a mob trial. He described modern Russia as a “mafia state”.

It is a memorable phrase, but what does that notion actually entail? Mark Galeotti, an expert on this murky subject, offers the best answer to date. “The Vory”—meaning “The Thieves”—is a colourful and comprehensive guide to the intersection of crime and politics in Russia.

The unwritten rules of the criminal underworld developed under the tsars, when the country’s serfs—a big chunk of the population—lived under a code that smiled on occasional diddling of feudal overlords. “Theft of wood…Continue reading

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